Morning Financial Press Review 13/11/19
Paul Kettle
AM Press Round-Up -3 mins read
06:49, 13th November 2019

Below are the key morning press headlines, featuring the The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail & more - see the full Press section here.

Vodafone Group (VOD) FOLLOW has written off the entire value of its troubled Indian offshoot, sending the mobile phone provider to a €1.9 billion loss and raising questions about the ability of overseas investors to do business in the world’s second most populous nation. The group warned yesterday that a dramatic ruling in the Indian supreme court last month could scupper its Indian operation. The decision leaves Vodafone Idea liable for an estimated $4 billion in backdated fees, fines and interest. Nick Read, chief executive, said that the Indian operation is likely to go under unless the government offers operators some relief from the fines. Vodafone has a 45% stake in the separately listed Indian company.

The Rugby World Cup and dating show Love Island helped bolster viewing figures and advertising revenue at ITV (ITV) FOLLOW over the past three months. The chief executive, Carolyn McCall, whose strategy is to build ITV into a digitally led media and entertainment company said on-screen and online viewing had performed well. Highlights included four of the five highest-rating new dramas this year and the Rugby World Cup, when the audience for the South Africa v England final peaked at 12.8 million. The broadcaster said it had also reached its target of 30 million registered users of its ITV Hub before its target date.

A fall in Ocado’s stock has wiped more than £79million off co-founder Tim Steiner’s share-holding. Ocado Group (OCDO) FOLLOW shares have slipped more than a fifth in the past five trading days as investors worry that rivals’ technology is catching up. The 21% stock price fall from 1360p last Wednesday to 1074.5p yesterday dented the chief executive’s holding of 27.6million shares. Ocado is valued at £7.5billion, meaning £2billion has been wiped off its market capitalisation in a week. Steiner’s stake is now worth about £296million. The decline started after it was said relations with its key client in the US, Kroger, were cooling – claims that Ocado has dismissed. At the same time, taxi-hailing app Uber said it plans to keep investing in grocery and food delivery and did not rule out acquisitions to move into the grocery sector. Shareholders also worry that US rival Takeoff, which works with Tesco, could disrupt Ocado, especially in America.

The chairman of IT group Softcat (SCT) FOLLOW has offloaded another £12.3million of stock – taking his share sales so far this year to more than £36million. Martin Hellawell sold 1m shares for 1046p each and 170,000 for 1096p each, taking his holding from 3.4% to less than 3%. He and a charitable group he is connected to had already sold almost £24million of shares in January and March.

B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) FOLLOW has vowed to maintain its assault on the retail market despite profits at the discounter chain tumbling by 70%, its boss said. Simon Arora, who set up the business with his brothers Bobby and Robin in the late 1970s, said: “We’re in the same fast lane as Aldi, Lidl and Primark. The march of the discount retailers continues unabated. “Shoppers are not embarrassed to shop smart and save money. They are tired of high-low pricing and promotional activity by retailers – they are much more drawn to everyday low prices.” The chain plans to open more than 300 new stores over the next five to six years, bringing the total to 950.

Royal Mail (RMG) FOLLOW has lost its appeal against Ofcom’s finding that it was guilty of market abuse designed to quash Whistl, a letter-handling rival. Sixteen months after the original verdict, when Royal Mail was fined a record £50 million by the regulator for anti-competitive behaviour, the Competition Appeal Tribunal found against the letters and parcels group. After the tribunal handed down its decision, an Ofcom spokesman said: “We found that Royal Mail pursued a deliberate strategy of pricing discrimination against Whistl, which was its only major competitor for delivering business mail. “Royal Mail had a special responsibility to ensure its behaviour was not anti-competitive. We hope that our fine, which has been upheld in full by the tribunal, will ensure that Royal Mail and other powerful companies take their legal duties very seriously.” Royal Mail has indicated that it may yet take the case to the Court of Appeal. It has claimed previously that Ofcom’s case was “fundamentally flawed”.

Disclaimer & Declaration of Interest

The information, investment views and recommendations in this article are provided for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell any financial product relating to any companies under discussion or to engage in or refrain from doing so or engaging in any other transaction. Any opinions or comments are made to the best of the knowledge and belief of the writer but no responsibility is accepted for actions based on such opinions or comments. Vox Markets may receive payment from companies mentioned for enhanced profiling or publication presence. The writer may or may not hold investments in the companies under discussion.

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